Archives for how to land your dream job

4 Questions That Build a Killer LinkedIn Summary

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

 

I am glad that LinkedIn exists for multiple reasons, but mostly because there is a venue for professionals to communicate beyond concise and awkward résumé language. Through LinkedIn, they can “speak” in their own natural voice with their own innate verbiage.

As a former hiring professional, it was helpful to understand who the candidate was behind the résumé. As a branding professional and Certified Professional Résumé Writer, I love having a place where I can better express my clients’ personalities and add greater context to their achievements and unique value.

Storytelling has burned a place into corporate and personal marketing because of its effectiveness. It helps people better learn and recall what makes a person impressive and better inspires them to take action on that person’s behalf.

If your LinkedIn profile summary still is a carbon copy of your résumé summary, answer the four questions below. These questions will help you better optimize the 2,000 characters that LinkedIn allows you, so you can distinguish yourself in your own voice. If your computer or phone has a dictation app, I recommend that you use this tool. Do not be too concerned about wordsmithing or character limits as you initially answer these questions.  Do not yet judge how people will perceive your answers. Just record your answers as they emerge.

Not only will this exercise enable you to craft a LinkedIn summary that provides visitors with a much better idea of who you are as a person (not just a professional or a candidate), but it will reveal to you how you have been presenting yourself to your network. You may even find that once you record your answers, evaluate them, and edit them that you have been divulging messages that are extraneous, irrelevant, and incongruent (or even damaging ) to your brand. Once you become conscious of these, you can craft better network messaging and become more effective at inspiring introductions and interviews.

 

Question 1:  How did you get here?

You have an experience section on your LinkedIn profile, so there is no need to chronicle your employment history. However, look at your present status as a sum of inspirational and educational moments that you have acquired throughout the years. Some of your most inspirational moments may be more personal than professional. Again, do not initially judge your answers. What we share about our personal learning experiences can often be more powerful in helping people resonate with who you are and what you have to offer.

Think about it and record those moments to answer to this question. What you record may wind up being paragraphs or even pages long, but eventually you will want to edit it down to one paragraph, starting with a vivid depiction of one of your most powerful moments.

 

Question 2: From what contributions have you derived the biggest sense of fulfillment and satisfaction?

You do not want to spill the beans with all the specific anecdotes from your employment history that have made you most proud. Instead, you want to entice the reader to keep on reading and to scroll down to your employment history to read the rest of the story. In your summary you want to be general. I encourage you to include anecdotes as an answer to this question because it will help you write summaries for your previous positions. Sometimes it is easier to recall specific memories and then to take a step back and figure out what these memories have in common.

You want to look for patterns and themes that have been threaded through each of your previous experiences, regardless of how different those experiences may be. This is where you demonstrate your passion. Notice, please, that I have yet to encourage you to tell people how passionate you are. The answer(s) to this question will do a much better job of communicating that you are passionate without stating your passion.

 

Question 3: How have you honed the primary skills and talents that enabled you to make these past contributions?

In the Career Management course I teach at Drexel University, my students are tired of hearing me lecture about how important proving your KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Achievements, aka KSEs: Knowledge, Skills and Experience) are to potential employers. Rather than simply leaving your list of skills out there without context as to which skills are strongest and without proof as to whether you really possess them or not, use this opportunity to explain how you developed personally and professionally. Some of this could be through formal training, some could be through life experience, and some could be through interesting challenges that enabled you to identify talents you didn’t know you previously had. Can you see how this creates more intrigue?

 

Question 4:  How do you envision being able to apply and further develop these talents and skills to make greater contributions in the future?

Whether you are a happy and engaged employee hoping to elevate your status within your current company, you are confidentially looking to leave your current employer, or if you’re unemployed and seeking your next big career opportunity, the answer to this question will help you position yourself for growth. Even if you are confidentially seeking new employment but working, you can shape shift the answer to promote your current employer and as a byproduct, promote yourself. This will enable you to mitigate potential suspicions that your new LinkedIn updates are intended to help you leave. You would need however, to find a way to make your future aspirations fit within the future vision of your current employer.

If you are unemployed, you may need to resist the temptation to keep your options wide-open. I understand the logic of wanting to do so if you need an income, but in my 15 years of experience I know it will most likely prolong your search or, sometimes worse, lead you to land in the wrong position at a toxic company where you become stuck and feel hopeless. Good employers want to offer their employees growth opportunities. It is integral in their hiring process to find candidates who are clear about their short and long-term ambitions. These days especially, you don’t have to make a lifelong commitment. In fact, most likely in a few years you will reinvent yourself.  But, for now, demonstrate that you have clarity over how you want to apply your skills and talents, and that you have goals.

 

After you pared down your answers to about a paragraph each, or about 500 characters, leave yourself another 500 characters to create a call-to-action (use the formula within this article) and/or a list of skills that will help you keyword optimize your profile.

Visit this LinkedIn post to see how to include symbols, such as bullets, in your content.

If you use these questions to transform your LinkedIn summary into a compelling story that attracts new connections and opportunities, please share a link to your profile and your results in the comments below.

 

3 Formulas for Powerful Achievement Stories

Day 102-365 by Markgranitz of Flickr

Day 102-365 by Markgranitz of Flickr

 

After you have defined your distinct brand and clarified your target audience, you are tasked with creating content and messaging that will resonate with your target employer and position you as a competitive candidate for jobs of your choice.

I know that résumé writing doesn’t come naturally to most people, even writers and marketers. In fact, a lot of us go to work feeling like we are merely fulfilling our functions and collecting a paycheck for our efforts. We are completely unaware and unawakened to the value we bring to an organization and the greater purpose and impact of our work. Yet, identifying and articulating this is what will enable you to inspire your next employer to offer you the job.

At a minimum, you must set up some context for what you did, and prove that you did it well or better than someone else who might have filled that role.

At a maximum, to excite the employer, you want them to be able to easily visualize you succeeding in the role by using an approach and being a personality that meshes with their culture. The impact is the extra step most formulas are missing. Distinct from a result, the impact is what occurs after a job has been done well.

For instance, writing a résumé that my clients completely love is a result. The impact of the résumé done well is that it produces interviews. The impact of an increase in interviews is an increase in confidence and hope. This leads my clients to feel a greater sense of empowerment and control over their professional destiny. I may not include all of these impacts in the résumé, but I would most certainly start with the most immediate impact on my client, and then in my LinkedIn profile go into greater details about the most fulfilling part of doing a job well, which is the trickle down impact and cascade of further positive outcomes.

To just get started with the basics, here are some formulas that can help you build the bullets of your résumé and prepare anecdotes that will validate you have the skills to do the job throughout the interview process.

Most achievement story templates tend to be two to three paragraphs that fit on one page. They may be included in a portfolio or binder that you bring with you to interviews. However, most people do not easily recollect details buried in paragraphs, and you will not want to read your achievement stories in an interview. At the end of the last formula, we will tell you how to remedy this.

 

Beginner formulas:

 

  1. PAR/CAR – Problem/Challenge > Action > Result

Problem/Challenge – This becomes difficult for someone who, say, closes the monthly financial books.  Ask yourself, what are the consequences to the business if this job is done poorly? Within the answer you will be able to find the value. It is what you may prevent from happening.

Action – What you did, specifically, to resolve the problem or overcome the challenge.

Result – The proof that what was done was effective.

 

  1. STAR – Situation > Task > Action > Result

Situation – Includes Who, What, When, Where and How

Task – What had to be done and what the challenges of doing so were

Action – What YOU did, specifically, your individual contributions

Result – What was the measurable outcome? How do you know you took the right actions?

 

Advanced formula:

  1. SCPDASTRI – The EPIC formula

My formula is not as simple an acronym, and you would not necessarily use all of these components in a bullet in your résumé. Use this formula to lay the foundation of a cohesive story that your résumé, LinkedIn profile, interview and other venues compliment and supplement, building greater and greater excitement.

Situation – the conditions that existed that necessitated a change or some kind of action

Challenge(s) – what made this an impressive feat

People impacted and the impact – who was experiencing the conditions AND who was engaged to address it

Decision made – and who made it/them

Actions taken – and by whom (“we” is not specific enough.)

Skills, talents applied – “hard” and “soft” skills

Tools used – technical tools, as well as approaches and methodologies

Results – what outcomes did the actions produce in as many measurable terms as possible. Think about showing PROOF that the action was taken or that it was successful

Impact – how that trickled down to other people

 

For a résumé intended to be concise, you would pick out the most impressive components, and start to build bullets from the bottom of the formula and work upward.

For a LinkedIn profile, you would include more of the backstory and use natural language, versus concise résumé speak.

In an interview, you would actually want to break the story out into bullets, and, depending on how you best recollect details, associate these bullets with something memorable to you. (More in a future blog on this.)

It can be quite a leap from thinking of your job as fulfilling your daily, weekly, monthly duties to seeing clearly the impact that you had on an organization by doing your job well. I recommend that you start with the basic formula. Build it into your résumé to have something effective that will help you present your skills, knowledge and experience. Make sure your LinkedIn profile converts your bullets into a compelling story, and then convert your story into even shorter bullets that will be easy to remember when you network and interview.

Then, as you master that, start to expand your awareness of your value and impact. Look past your duties to the reasons you were chosen to do the job, and why your bosses and co-workers should be grateful that you were the one in the position (whether they were actually grateful or not).

Fill in the additional details from the advanced formula. Re-craft your bullets and LinkedIn profile. Enhance the achievement story bullets that you have already been recalling with ease with additional details that paint an even more vivid picture of what it looks like to have you in the job.

 

The better your interviewer/future boss can visualize this, the harder it will be for someone else to come in and make a stronger impression.

 

5 Questions to See if There Is an Olympian in You

_52J4980 by OnEdition of Flickr

_52J4980 by OnEdition of Flickr

 

What hot weather? There is an ongoing heat wave, but my family is inside glued to the television during the Olympics.

Yes, most of it is a nice distraction from all the negative things that could be getting my attention these days. However, the Olympics also inspire me to think about the level of success that is possible for me and all people. Success is possible for people whether they are a child on the little league team, an administrative assistant, software developer, middle management, or a CEO.

An Olympic level of success would look different for everyone and it does not necessarily mean appearing in TV commercials; I imagine what would be consistent would be a fair amount of hard work, a winning mindset, and the ability to have fun even under pressure. Perhaps that success does not come with a medal, but hopefully it will come with enough money to afford a good lifestyle, the ability to mingle with other top performers, and the peace of mind in knowing that you gave it everything inside you.

 

Answer one or a few of the following questions to see if there is an Olympian inside you.

If your job was an Olympic sport, do you think you could be the greatest in the world?

Would you be willing to test yourself against others who believe they could be the best in the world?

When you see the look of exultation on the faces of the Olympic medalists, can you think of and share with us a moment when you felt like that?

Is there any job you can think of doing for which you would sacrifice a social life, momentous family occasions, sleep, junk food, alcohol, etc.?

Would you be willing to move to another country to work with the best coach in the world?

 

5 of the Biggest Lessons I Learned in 10 Years as a Career Coach

Climbing Journal Mount Rinjani Package by Trekking Rinjani of Flickr

Climbing Journal Mount Rinjani Package by Trekking Rinjani of Flickr

 

 

Last week an executive recruiter shared with me a really interesting position that she is trying to fill in the bleeding edge of biotechnology. We reveled at all of the amazing things that we were able to learn by spending quality time with subject matter experts and thought leaders. Then she asked me, “What is the biggest thing you learned when you switched from recruiting to career coaching?” Compassion is the first answer that came to the top of my mind because it was the first big lesson that made the biggest difference in my coaching practice and for my clients.

As I continue to reflect on the past ten years, there are a few more huge lessons among all of the small ones that have made the biggest difference in what and how I teach that have become staples of my brand. Allow me to share the top five lessons from my last ten years:

 

1. You get better results with compassion rather than with judgment

We followed this motto in recruiting, “screen out, not in.” It was meant to keep us looking for the right fit and not to force the fit. I’m a very trainable person and now I know that I can take things too literally. So I adopted this method of qualifying talent, but I did not enjoy the method. Yet, it became my way to be judgmental of candidates. I was always assessing if they were good enough and was always digging for skeletons in their closet. It is part of what made me realize I did not want to be a recruiter any longer. Although I switched sides to become an advisor and advocate for job seekers, I had taken a very “tough love” approach. I shared with them (for their own sake) all of the different and negative perceptions that they could be generating.

This is vital information for job seekers to understand, but what I did not understand at the time was how my role was really to be encouraging, to help them realize and articulate the tremendous value that they can present, and to help them see that they have so much more value to present than risk. For example, even when I was convincing a client that he should have been making double what he had been earning, I had been telling him from a place of judgment and intolerance rather than from a place of understanding and compassion. This is something that I needed coaching on, and I spent a year and then some working to restore and expand my compassion.

 

2Not only should I always be coached, but I should engage a coach who is an expert in each thing I want to master

Coaching had a profound impact on me, and that is why I found it a worthwhile career pursuit. I don’t know what made me think that once I became a coach I no longer needed coaching. In fact, what I discovered over the last ten years is that my capacity to learn new techniques, methodologies, and skills not only expands my abilities to accomplish goals my personal life, but it exponentially evolves the value that I offer my clients. This enables me to help them go further faster than ever before. It does not really matter what material I’m learning, there are always new applications for my clients.

 

3. Success is about 20% what you do, 30% how you do it, and 50% what you do it from

In college, I took a lot of communications courses for my major and I learned a lot about nonverbal communication and how much more influential it can be on people versus verbal communication. I certainly saw that in practice as a recruiter, as I became a human lie detector, but it was not until I underwent transformational training around communications that I had an epiphany: No matter what we say, or how we tactically manipulate our pitch, facial expressions, or body language, if we are coming from negative emotions, we will most likely have a negative communication outcome.

Do you have one of those friends that presses you a lot with, “no offense but…” and you know that what is likely going to come out of their mouth is going to be offensive? Did you know that we cannot possess negative emotion and positive emotion simultaneously, though we can easily switch back and forth? Physical and physiological changes in our pitch, tone, facial expressions, and body language occur naturally as results of our emotions. It makes a lot more sense to just be more conscious of which emotions we are communicating through, rather than to pay attention and manipulate the physical and physiological symptoms. Everyone has an internal lie detector, and although they do not recognize what they are picking up as a lie, they will get a general sense of being out of rapport with someone. If you are not in rapport with someone, you cannot be influential. Conclusion: if you want to be influential, communicate from a positive emotion, such as joy, possibility, love, and compassion.

 

4. When done right, technology makes us more productive, more efficient, and more effective, but it has to be done with discipline

I totally understand people who are resistant to using social media because there is a real risk that you will miss out on what and who is physically in front of you, and it can become an unhealthy escape from reality. However, there are ways to manage social media and technology usage that enable you to reap the benefits, such as being the person that people think of when a great opportunity comes around. That is, someone who can successfully manage and mitigate the potential risks that contribute to a loss of quality of life can use technological tools to be more productive with less effort. The learning, however, and the implementation, as well as tweaking the balance between using and abusing, will take time and effort (although a lot less time and effort if you do #2.)

 

5. Good habits are key to sustainable success, but accountability is only important to most, not all people

I am in love with learning, testing, and applying new techniques and technology that help us create better habits that support us in achieving our goals. Since first studying behavior modification through gamification in 2010, and trying to discover a panacea that would help everyone be successful, I discovered (I’m quoting Gretchen Rubin), “we are all more similar than we think, but our differences are important.” We all have the same brain composition, which operates according to some well-known and some newly discovered ways. Some of those ways help us learn and some impede our learning. However, we all come to the table with our own set of perceptions and beliefs about how the world and people operate.

That perception can greatly shape our tendencies when it comes to not just forming new habits, but the desire to do so. Some people do not need accountability because they hold themselves accountable and are very coachable. However, there are very few of these people. Others prefer to defy expectations and accountability, which makes them less likely to form a habit. Fortunately, this is also a small population of people and they deserve success as much as anyone else. Other coaches might find this population of people to be uncoachable, but I believe they are coachable. Furthermore, I’m enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to be a successful coach to the “rebel” population.

 

My six-year-old always wants to know how I know something. “How do you know the library is going to be closed tomorrow?” Sometimes I find myself explaining to her, “Well, the sign in the elevator said that the library would be closed on Sundays from May until September.” Other times I’ll just say, “Well, you think you know a lot at six years old. Imagine how much more you’ll have learned by the time you’re 12, then 24, and then 48.”

I’m sure if you thought about the last ten years of your career life, you would be equally in awe of how much you have evolved. You would be equally excited about what the next ten years holds in store, just from a learning and development perspective.

 

Please share with me some of the biggest lessons you have learned in the past ten years.

The #1 Mistake Job Seekers Make That Get Them Stuck

"You're only as good as your last at bat." Created with Pablo by Buffer

“You’re Only As Good as Your Last At Bat” Created with Pablo by Buffer

 

So you have decided that now is the time to start taking action to change your career circumstances. You sort through old files, dig up the old résumé, and realize that it has not been updated in years. You struggle to remember everything that you did. For a moment you doubt if you are hirable. Taking a look at your outdated résumé, you wonder if you would hire yourself. Conclusion: not with this résumé.

You wonder to yourself if you really have time to give this job search what it takes. You tell yourself that you have to do SOMETHING. You cannot stay where you are any longer. Something has got to give. Writer’s block sets in hard, though, as you look at job descriptions and say, “I could do that. I could do that, too. How do I put that in my résumé? What did I really spend all these years doing? Did the work I performed really matter?”

Dusting off and updating your résumé does seem like a logical place to start when you decide that you must take action. However, if this is where you start then you are making one of the most common mistakes that lead most jobseekers down a road of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

I have found that a lot of people love to talk about themselves, especially when they are asked the right questions. It is not as enjoyable, however, to write about yourself, especially when it really matters.

If your résumé is not the best place to start your job search, what is the best first thing you can do?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about creating a vision that pulls you out of bed. I was certainly trying to speak to the people who find themselves in that state of frustration, depression, disappointment, and hopelessness, but do not wait until you are in that state of mind before designing your future. Save yourself NOW from that future torture.

Epic Careering outlines seven steps of the transition process, the first of which being Career Discovery. Questions you would ask yourself during this stage would be, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “What is the next logical stage in my career if I am to meet my ultimate goals?”  Even if you think you know that you want something similar to what you have, but just with different circumstances, it is worth an investment of time and thought to decide exactly what improvements in circumstances look like.

Would you report to a manager who is much more open-minded about your ideas?

Would you want to work with people who you would hang out with socially?

Do you want to work for a company whose mission you support and believe?

If you have already reached the end of your rope with your job, you may believe that any change would be an improvement. Nevertheless, I have seen this type of thinking produce even worse conditions.

When writing a résumé and conducting the job search seem intimidating, it will be tempting to reach for the low hanging fruit and resort to doing whatever is easiest and seems to take the least amount of time. This usually means plopping in some new responsibilities that you assumed since you last updated your résumé, scouring job boards, and clicking apply.

This is exactly what leads to a cycle of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

Take some time, and it doesn’t have to be much, to really think about what your next position and boss have to offer you in order to thrive and be successful. Maybe you do not change your role at all, but just the conditions under which you perform your next role. If you know you do not like your role, but you need to change and make an income, you might tend to think that you will do what is easiest. That is landing something you have the highest probability of getting because you did it already, and then take more time to search for something better while you are still working.

Hey, this is sometimes what you have to do, and recruiters will certainly tell you this is the most logical step (because you represent a placement fee). What I have seen happen more times than not is that people land, and they realize that they better perform if they want to keep their job. They put their efforts on hold for 90 days to obtain training in how to perform, and get to know the key players. That is 90 days wasted. They wind up miserable, and then have to try extra hard to seem motivated and engaged, when they are really already burned out. They come home, not only too tired to search job boards or attend networking meetings, but too tired to play card games with their kids or deal with the broken lawnmower. Not only do they feel like failures at their job, but they feel like failures at home. It bleeds into every area of their life, and they start to forget how brilliant and valuable they really are, which makes it that much harder to imagine interviewing. Essentially, they become “stuck.”

What you might not know is that you can land something you really like and would succeed in just as quickly with a clear vision of what you want. This includes a professionally branded résumé targeted to resonate with the employer who is able to offer you the conditions under which you will succeed, and an effective proactive campaign to find them and convince them that they need you.

You will not know if your résumé, however well-written and up-to-date, is effective until you know who’s reading it and what they need to know about you to identify you as the right fit. Furthermore, you will not know if your résumé is really a powerful tool in your success until the interviews that it garners are for jobs that you would really want and succeed in.

I think it is wise to have a plan A and a plan B. I challenge you, if you think that plan A is finding something lateral even though it will not make you happy, to invert which one is your plan A and which one is your plan B. Also, do not try to write your résumé until you know who you want to read it. (Then call us, because we will ask you all the right questions.)

Gary Vaynerchuk, Social Media and Business thought leader, believes strongly in meritocracy, where “you’re only as good as your last at bat.” If you don’t take the time to set yourself up for a successful next job by developing your criteria, you can lose value in the marketplace, decrease your competitive edge, and make it that much harder to find something that really suits you. This means a weakened career and income trajectory. It means a lesser quality of life.

We’ve certainly quoted Jim Carrey before, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

It is not that it takes a lot of time to develop a good idea of what you really want; it is that you have to dig through layers and layers of untruths that you have come to believe about what is possible.

Remember, we have systems, services and tools to usher you through all of this – Career Development, Criteria Identification, Target Company Profiling, and Personal Branding.

Fill out and send us a needs assessment form and your most recent résumé and we will help you begin a career roadmap that actually helps you navigate to a happy place in your career.

 

 

According to Science, Your Next Job Just Got 2 Degrees Closer

Thanks, Facebook!

Social Network in a course by Hans Poldoja of Flickr

Social Network in a course by Hans Poldoja of Flickr

In 1961, Stanley Milgram, a psychologist determined that we are connected to anyone on earth by just six degrees by conducting several experiments to examine the average path length for the (non-virtual) social networks of people in the United States. The project was coined the “small-world experiment.” In the experiment, Milgram sent letters to 300 randomly selected people in Nebraska and Kansas to one target person, a stockbroker in Boston. The letters could not be directly sent to the target, but had to be sent through someone they knew on a first-name basis who might know the stockbroker. Only 30% of the letters reached their target, but the research discovered that there were about six people connecting each participant to the target. Think of the concept as meeting a stranger and discovering you have a friend in common. As of today, the world has gotten smaller by nearly 2.5 degrees. A smaller world means your dream boss is that much more accessible, and your next job is that much closer, IF you use your network to find your next job.

Later social experiments revealed that you are much more likely to land a job through random acquaintances than through your close friends. You and your close friends all know the same people and share the same information. However, it is through random acquaintances that you can connect with people very far from your social circles. This is the principle in which LinkedIn was founded. It is why the introduction request feature was invented and what makes LinkedIn such an effective job search tool.

 

The degrees of separation have become smaller

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who has dedicated his career to improving America’s scientific literacy, stated that because of social networks like Facebook, separation is down to less than five degrees. In 2011 Facebook found that 92% of their users were just connected through five steps and the number has been decreasing.  According to the newest research released by Facebook in 2016, the degrees of separation are just 3.57. (This number only applies to active Facebook users which total about 1.59 billion people.)

We are all closely linked and four (or less) handshakes could connect us to anyone on the planet. Hence why networking is the number one activity to dedicate yourself to when you want to accomplish something, especially job searching. We have constantly repeated T. Harv Eker’s famous quote: “Your net worth is your network.” We believe Eker’s words are worth repeating, because while he is talking about opportunity in general, networking has proven time and time again not just to be the best way to land a job, but to land the job you want.

 

Your next job is closer than you think

A connection at the employers you want to work for may be only a few degrees of separation away through a social network such as Facebook. In fact, it is possible to use Facebook and Twitter to quickly land your next job. Think about it: If you can potentially meet anyone on the planet through fewer than 3.6 degrees of separation, it is possible to make the connections that will help you land faster. These facts are kind of mind-blowing– the world’s population has increased by hundreds of millions, but the world has gotten almost 50% smaller thanks to technology!

 

Nurture your networks

Your connections consist of family, friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and even strangers where you may have a common interest. They are your network and by tapping into those existing relationships and nurturing them, your network will grow– much like a garden. If you are building your network online, create a relationship with the people you wish to network with by engaging them. The ultimate goal is to move your conversation offline in order to establish a meaningful relationship. Through these relationships, the introductions that will lead you to a desirable job are made.

Take opportunities to build your network by networking in person at job events, industry groups, and even industry events. Go further faster by focusing on the QUALITY of your networks, as opposed to the quantity. Quality networks are built with the people with whom you share an interest. Interests consist of a hobby, a political view, a mission, or a value. We do not want to imply that if you simply shake enough hands (without a common interest), you will land a job. You could shake that many hands and eliminate that many opportunities with the wrong impression. Networking is really about adding value to others and enriching your own life. The benefits or detriments you derive from networking are a byproduct of your approach. Like a garden you nurture, you reap or harvest what you sow.

 

In the early 20th century various scientists proved that the world is small and that we are all connected by just a few degrees. In the 21st century, the world has gotten even smaller thanks to the massive explosion of communication technology. Instead of being connected by six degrees, we are connected by 3.6. Many people tend shy away from networking, but the employers you want to work for are just a few handshakes away. A mere 3.6 degrees are all that separate you from the job you have always wanted. By taking advantage of a rapidly shrinking world, you can expand your network, connect with anyone, and land your dream job.

 

5 Ways to Develop Soft Skills Employers Love

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Have you ever felt like soft skills such as communicating effectively, better managing your time, or building relationships was something you are gifted with, and can not be taught? The belief that soft skills can not be taught is a common misconception and Geek Manager Blogger Meri Williams refers to this belief as the “Soft Skills Fairy.” Many people feel some are blessed with soft skills, while others must languish in their inability to grasp them. The truth is that anyone can learn soft skills, much like learning to program code, cook, or fix a car. These skills can be obtained in a variety of ways including reading books, personal development courses, and life coaching. In “9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill,” I discussed the skills employers want and how knowledge of these skills are not enough. Honing these skills are vital to your employability and professional growth.

 

  1. Setting Goals

Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star, did not start out as a winner. She was physically unfit, was not mentally strong enough, and her character needed work. She doubled down and improved herself. Lloyd is now considered one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in professional soccer, and she is lauded for her character. Carli Lloyd’s coach pointed out to her when she was aspiring to join the national soccer team that athletes at this level work hard to obtain results. They live, breathe, and sleep their big goal. They train mentally and physically from the time they wake up until the time they sleep. It takes extreme discipline, and learning which soft skills to develop also requires discipline. Soft skill development requires awareness at a conscious level, and then to become unconsciously competent requires extreme regimen and consistent awareness, for which external guidance can be pivotal. Becoming unconsciously competent takes place in stages.

Many people have blind spots when it comes to their own soft skills. A skills assessment quiz is one of the best ways to pinpoint where your skills are lacking. Setting goals allows you to track your development. One of your goals can be to identify all of the soft skills gaps that stand to threaten your professional success by either taking a quiz or working with a coach.

 

  1. Self-assessment

After completing the quiz and setting goals, take a moment to sit down and decide which skills you need to develop. Prioritize the skills you will develop first, and create a list reasons why you want to improve these soft skills. The list of reasons can range from “I am having trouble connecting to my co-workers,” to “I want to become a better leader.” Whatever your reasons are, they are personal and unique to you. After you have created your list, share it with a coach, mentor, or friend to help keep you accountable. An accountability partner can keep you on track and serve as support.

All of the planning in the universe is useless without a solid plan of action. Once you know where you need to improve, and you have a method of accountability, it is time to put the task of learning soft skills into motion.

 

  1. Work with a coach

The use of a life coach can be another method to identify the blind spots in your soft skills development. People often need someone else to angle the mirror correctly to see what they cannot see in themselves to improve various aspects of their lives. A coach can provide this mirror, a path to move forward, and the ability to push you harder on that path. The development of soft skills is similar to learning physical skills. Unless you exercise those skills, they will not grow. You can also think of a good coach as a captain helping you to navigate the waters of personal and professional development. You could complete these tasks on your own, but arriving at your destination will take much longer.

 

  1. Reading materials

Reading books on how to improve your soft skills can be a great source of encouragement and insight. Additionally, reading can provide a useful road map on your journey to develop your soft skills. Here are ten great books to help you start the journey:

 

  1. Dr. Travis Bradberry- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  2. Stephen Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  3. Dale Carnegie- How to Win Friends and Influence People
  4. Dale Carnegie – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
  5. Andrea Gardner – Change Your Words, Change Your World
  6. Dan Millman – Peaceful Warrior
  7. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
  8. Allyson Lewis – The Seven Minute Difference
  9. Carol S. Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  10. Susan Cain- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Once you have begun to develop your soft skills, it is time to put them into practice. You would not expect an athlete to go into their first game without practicing, nor would you expect a programmer to release code without extensive testing. In the same manner, you can practice your soft skills. You can join associations or hobby-related clubs. If you really want to put your newly acquired skills to the test, attend a soft skills training workshop. Take and graciously accept feedback, as it will help you keep track of your development progress and help you target areas of weakness. Practicing your soft skills will allow you to sharpen them outside of the workplace. As you continue to put your soft skills to use, recalling them will become easier and will feel more natural.

 

We often think soft skills can not be improved, or are notoriously difficult to develop. In truth, like any area of your professional and personal life worth developing, the development of soft skills is not an easy path. The good news is that anyone can learn and improve these skills if they are willing. As I said in my previous article, technical skills are what employers notice, but soft skills are what help you land and keep you employed. Taking the time to commit to learning soft skills can improve your employment situation by making it easier to land, to constantly grow, and to take your career to new heights.

 

 

The #1 Most Critical Thing You Can Do After an Interview

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set - LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set – LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

 

Your last interview seemed to flow really well. You were at the top of your game, knew all about your potential employer, and you asked plenty of questions. Still, there is a little bit of doubt eating away at you. Perhaps you should have asked more questions, or you forgot to mention one of your better achievements. It does not matter how well you performed, or did not perform during your interview. Send your interviewer a follow-up within 24 hours of the meeting, regardless of your performance. A follow-up is your chance to stand out from other applicants, and to remind your interviewer why YOU are the best candidate for the position.

 

Why the follow-up counts

A follow-up after an interview can convey three major points:

  1. Your follow-up informs interviewers that you are thankful for the interview and are serious about the position. Thank them for not just the interview, but the opportunity to learn more about the company culture, the people, and the initiatives.
  1. You can reiterate why you feel you are the right candidate for the position. Use your follow-up to remind them how your experience and skills are a good fit for the company.
  1. A great follow-up demonstrates your interest in the company. Often the hours of reflection after an interview can bubble up really good ideas as to how you can add value to a company. Capitalize on those ideas and send an interviewer what you envision to be your best approach at helping them achieve the objectives you now better understand.
  1. All of those things you wish afterward you could have said, you can now say. Sometimes you do not know where you missed the mark, or afterward you might feel as if you forgot to mention an experience that was directly applicable to what a potential employer is trying to achieve. Use this opportunity to turn things around if the interview did not go as well as you think. Make an employer want to know even more!

 

A follow-up can become a later opportunity

Intriguing an employer may be enough to keep you in the running as a candidate. A follow-up is also your opportunity to remind an interviewer about an important topic you discussed during the interview. You may feel as if you made a great impression by describing a particular problem you solved, or an interviewer might have been impressed by your professional achievements. This allows you to stand out among the many applicants applying for the same position, especially those who may not follow-up. Format also counts. E-mail is more than sufficient for your follow-up. A hand-written note is an extra step, but may remain with an interviewer longer, if he or she keeps a copy of it on their desk. If you are going to send a handwritten note, send an e-mail to be prompt AND a handwritten note. If you know a position needs to be urgently filled, go with e-mail. An actual letter could be too much. Send a note and an addendum if you have extensive information to relay.

If you weren’t right for the position, you can keep your name in the mind of the interviewer with a follow-up. The point of this follow-up isn’t to ask for reconsideration, but to keep your options open, in case another opportunity with the company should arise. Do not just send a simple “thank you,” but also send articles, whitepapers, and other resources. Not all at once- drip the content on them over time to maintain the relationship and let the employer know you’ve been thinking about them, their needs, and their goals. This demonstrates that you really took to heart what an interviewer said, and that you want to add value to a company.

In case you were wondering if following up might seem desperate: taking a moment to thank an interviewer is NOT desperate! You may be tempted to address any concerns you had during the interview in your follow-up. Proceed with caution here. Make sure an interviewer is interested before you start addressing any concerns such as a period of unemployment that you could not easily explain. In fact, if you are working with an outside recruiter, address your concerns with them. With an inside recruiter or the hiring manager, wait for the second interview to bring up any issues with your prospective employer.

 

Customize your follow-up for multiple interviews

You may have been interviewed by a panel for a position, instead of a single interviewer. Take a few moments to follow-up with all of them. Each person involved in the panel of interviewers represents a different area of the company, such as a department manager, an HR manager, and team leaders. Send each of your interviewers a customized note, not a template, to avoid embarrassment should they compare their follow-up notes.

 

If there is silence after an interview

At the end of your interview ask “If I don’t hear from you by X-date (next week, perhaps), how would you like me to follow-up with you?” A phone call is the best method, but some interviewers may have their own preferences. If you have not heard back from your interviewer within a few days, take the time to follow-up by phone, unless they have indicated otherwise. Silence can mean it is possible that you may have lost out to another candidate, but were not informed. People spend too much time contemplating why they aren’t getting a response when they could be taking it upon themselves to check in.

If you did not get the job, ask them why, this is valuable information for your next interview. That said, do not be surprised if you are not given the opportunity to receive feedback, or if you do not receive an answer. In my experience as a recruiter, as much as I thought this was valuable information for any job seeker to have, not every person was truly open to hearing or accepting constructive criticism. If an interviewer or recruiter takes the time to offer you feedback, be open to accepting that constructive criticism and thank them genuinely. When the time arrives for your next interview, you will be better prepared.

 

Following up after an interview can be the difference between landing the job, or being the runner up. It may not guarantee that you will land, but it can leave a good impression that could lead to future opportunity. Just imagine if there are two equally qualified candidates in the running for a position. One candidate sends out a thoughtful follow-up, where he or she thanks the interviewer for their time, reiterates why they are perfect for the position, and provides ideas on how they can offer value to the company- all within 24 hours of the interview. The other candidate is completely silent. Which scenario leaves a better impression on an interviewer? You want to be the candidate that leaves a positive and lasting impression on a potential employer. The time you spend on a follow-up can greatly increase your chances of landing.

 

5 Reasons Why Most Job Searches Take 2X Too Long

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

One of the questions on our needs assessment form asks how long a prospective client can sustain themselves financially while they are in transition. Unfortunately, too many answer a few weeks or they are not currently sustaining themselves. They navigated their job search without a captain and became lost at sea, drowning in debt and despair. By this point, there is nothing left to invest in services such as mine (which is why we developed a whole suite of low-budget DIY tools). What’s worse, they don’t have the energy or attitude to give what is necessary to get back up to speed. Their spirit and hope are broken, watching the safe harbors of income and opportunity drift further and further away.

Job seekers who are granted unemployment compensation or severance may decide to ride the transition out, which is very much like using up whatever gas is in the tank figuring that the wind will blow you back to safety. How predictable is the wind? About as predictable as your job search results without a captain.

There are five main culprits of job search delays, which cost job seekers critical income each extra day they spend searching in vain.

 

Lack of Clarity

I’m going to keep this simple, because I’ve covered this extensively in the past and it probably deserves its own post in the near future: What you want matters to great companies. American companies lose $300 billion annually due to disengaged workers, so they aren’t going to believe you’ll take anything and be satisfied. They want to know why their position will satisfy you. Gone are the days where you can be everything to everyone. You have ONE LinkedIn profile, and if it doesn’t jive with your résumé, you are perceived as a risky candidate, and move down in the ranks.

 

Stray Bullet Résumés

Yes, most résumés fall below my standards, and many are FAR below. However, sending your résumé through online career portals is actually the bigger cause of delays. We aim to understand what kinds of results our clients had been getting with their résumés, and many take multiple interview invitations as a sign their résumé is working for them, and that can be true. That said, I sometimes find after little digging that the jobs are not at all in alignment with what they want. They are executing a reactive job search. Job seekers put their résumé out there, wait for responses, and then go on interviews because they’re offered, not because they are a fit. This leads to a lot of false beliefs about what’s possible. After a few failed interviews, they will start to believe that they don’t have the skills that are in demand right now because the feedback they constantly receive is that they are looking for something different. That’s when job seekers think they have to change their target and that they have to be to be more open and flexible, and perhaps take a step backwards in pay and level. They believe this is the faster path to employment because they’re now going for what is in demand. However, if they were more proactive in pursuing what they wanted and networked to uncover opportunities, job seekers wouldn’t have to worry about “keyword calls,” when recruiters or sourcers call candidates for skills that are buried deep within the past. Job seekers would be proactively uncovering opportunities that require the skill sets and strengths they offer. When evaluating whether your résumé is written well, don’t just evaluate whether or not you are receiving offers for interviews; evaluate how closely those jobs align with what you want and how successful you will be.

At Epic Careering, we measure success as happiness and fulfillment. You will need more than just the right keywords in your résumé to be found for the right job. Nevertheless, it takes more than a résumé to generate momentum. You may receive fewer offers for interviews from job boards and recruiters when your résumé is written for a target role and employer, but that’s not reflective of a lesser viability or availability of opportunities. Your time is valuable, especially when you’re out of work. Your outlook is invaluable. It’s dangerous to engage in job search activities that lead you to feel disappointed in the results and in yourself. If you’re spending most of your time on job boards, you’re setting yourself up for a longer transition that will not have an ideal outcome. If you are saying right now, “But I need a job, so I’ll take anything,” please refer to my last blog to understand why you’re limiting your possibilities with this approach. In the same time or often faster, you could find yourself with a really great opportunity.

 

Negligent Networking

Job seekers are taking the advice of the experts and are going out to network. Even smarter still, are the people who go out to network while they are not in transition. When the time comes to look for an opportunity, these people are already in a stage of momentum. However, successful networking doesn’t look like shaking a lot of hands and making superficial contacts, meeting strangers with whom you have nothing in common, and wasting your time getting to know people who have nothing for you. Please understand that I’m not telling you to be closed off to networking with anyone. I’ll be the first to tell you that you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, and if someone is willing to sit down and talk to you and get to know you, open yourself up and see what opportunity may come. Again, when it comes to managing your time and being proactive, don’t go to just any networking event because it’s happening. You have some really good options and what is good for another job seeker may not be as good for you. I encourage you to go to events for job seekers, because employers are actively recruiting, but keep in mind you are competing with everyone else attending and it will take that much more to distinguish yourself. Make sure a bulk of your networking occurs at events related to your industry and they are attended by hiring managers from your target companies. If an executive in your target company is receiving an award at an event, buy a ticket. I promise you that a $125 ticket to a gala will give you more traction than five $25 job seeker events. Why? You will appear as someone of high caliber. You will have a level of credibility that you will not be able gain at events designed for job seekers.

Then there is what you say when you network that makes a difference. Don’t introduce yourself as a job seeker; that’s your status, not your identity. Your identity is your brand. You want to leave an audience with an impression of who you are and the value that you have to offer. You want to talk about the solutions that you offer and the people to whom you offer them. Maybe they will identify themselves as someone in need of what you have to offer, or even better, you can have them think of three other people who need what you have to offer. Wear a nice suit– you will walk a little taller and stand a little prouder. Show your audience that you take care of yourself and that you see value in yourself. No one else is going to see value in you unless you see value in yourself. You’re worth the $125 black tie event ticket!

 

Unprepared Interviews

Emily Allen of Seer Interactive, a highly sought after employer due to their trusting culture and unlimited vacation policy, stated in our Epic Career Tales podcast interview that one thing she wished every job seeker knew was how important it was to research the company. A company like Seer Interactive takes pride in what they do and they want to hire people who are going to be just as enthusiastic. Enthusiasm isn’t something you state; it’s something you demonstrate. The only authentic way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a company is to take the time to research what they’re up to, who their thought leaders are, what their challenges are, their plans to overcome them, and how you fit in with their solutions. If you fail to do this research, you fail the interview. Too many of these failed interviews lead to frustration, a diminished sense of self-worth, and false beliefs about what’s possible in your job search. It doesn’t matter how many interviews you earn if you’re just racking up failures. You would rather have three or four successful interviews than a dozen failed interviews. If you follow this track record, you also become susceptible and fall prey to companies that don’t care about you or what you want.

 

The Shoo-in Trap

We’ve addressed before how easy it can be to stop your job search efforts once you have one or two great opportunities, but that is a trap. You might have received strong indications that you’re the front-runner for a position, and still anything can happen. You better believe that the company has continued to make sure they have a backup candidate just in case anything happens to you, and you would be wise to continue your job search efforts. Killing your momentum by quitting your job search activity will mean that you have to start over from scratch should anything fall through, and in my experience as a recruiter, things fall through most of the time. As much as you want to believe you are a shoo-in for a job, you cannot just go by great feedback. It only takes one person’s feedback to alter the course of a hire, and any type of organizational shift will change what they need and want. Until you have an offer letter, have decided to sign and accept an opportunity, continue your QUALITY job search efforts.

 

Consider me your career captain, experienced and trusted to make sure everything is ship-shape– the weather looks good, the provisions are stocked, the fuel is planned out, and the destinations are mapped. If you hire me as your captain, you will avoid many travel risks that can cause delays in your arrival. Additionally, you are sure to have all you need to enjoy your voyage and your destination.

Without me, you will either have to spend your time prior to departure learning the equipment, relying on questionable meteorological instruments, shopping for the provisions, checking the motors and sails, and planning out your navigation. Or, you can learn as you go, risking big mistakes that will take you far off course.

Now imagine that your voyage is a professional one, and each day you spend lost at sea instead of in port, you lose money. What investment do you think is worth arriving safely where you can make money? One day’s pay? One week’s pay? If you land one week sooner, that’s one more week’s worth of income. What if you land in half the time? Based on the generally accepted industry formula, you can expect to be in transition one month for every $10K of salary. I’ve never found this formula to be accurate, as my clients have landed in half the time, and often sooner. I have had many executive clients land within a month, and I have had clients with serious challenges who spent 8 months or more searching prior to engaging me as their captain land within 2 months after we set sail.

Time is money. Land ho!

Are You Demonstrating Your Top Qualities in Your Job Search?

"Jack Canfield Nothing happens until you take action" by BK of Flickr

“Jack Canfield Nothing happens until you take action” by BK of Flickr

Ethan is a Social Media Analyst who’s often described by his friends as a “go-getter.” When he sets out to complete a project at work, or help a friend, he gives the task his best effort. Ethan’s work is always completed on time and goes beyond what is asked of him. While he tries to state this quality on his résumé, he does not demonstrate it through his actions during his job search. Ethan looked for work on job boards, didn’t ask his network for help, and didn’t do much research before his interviews. Although Ethan’s friends can vouch for the fact that he is a go-getter, potential employers failed to see this quality. He realized he had to apply those qualities to his job search if he was going to impress employers. This meant connecting with employers, networking, and taking the initiative instead of relying on job portals. Within two months of Ethan applying his go-getter attitude to his search, he landed at a new firm.

What are your uniquely valuable qualities as an employee? Are you detail-oriented? Are you a go-getter? Or are you creative?  More importantly, how are you using those qualities in your job search campaign and how are you demonstrating those qualities to potential employers?

Eight qualities employers commonly consider are:

 

1. Problem solving – Problem solving involves thinking critically, creatively, and being willing to compromise when needed. It could be helping to reduce the workload of a busy boss, eliminating inefficiencies, or finding a simpler way to resolve an issue. In your job search, this could look like finding a hiring manager’s contact information and engaging with them before your interview.

2. Team Player – Team players are people who work well in a team environment. You can demonstrate your ability to work with others by taking a team approach in your job transition. This can consist of getting together in a group, having people attend events on your behalf, and leveraging your network. You can also consider being part of a mentoring group while in transition.

3. Flexibility – Being flexible means you’re willing to make things work. When you’re trying to meet people for job interviews, for information, to network, or even being willing to have flexible work hours, you want to be as convenient as possible. For example, asking “How can I accommodate you?” comes across as flexible and ties into being a problem-solver. This shows you’re willing figure out how best to help a potential employer. Be aware of a few caveats: it is possible to come across as too flexible and seem desperate. You can take your flexibility too far, compromise your values, or seem contradictory.

Max Crowley’s determination to work for Uber is a great example of flexibility. His current role as a System Integration Consultant wasn’t an obvious match for Uber, but he was willing to change careers to follow his passion. Crowley devised a plan where he would position himself to be hired. He followed Uber’s Head of Operations on social media and made it a point to show up at recruiting events. His determination paid off with a Senior Community Manager position.

4. Leadership – Leadership is leading by example and being self-motivated. These are people who naturally take the initiative while following instructions. You can demonstrate this to employers by volunteering in a leadership role and joining a professional organization where potential supervisors could be members.

5. Communication – Communication is more about listening than being heard. We all want to be heard, but being able to listen is a really special quality. Not listening to, or accommodating an employer’s preferred communication method can be a major source of frustration. Some people prefer to communicate by e-mail, others may want you to call, while some prefer a text message.

In the case of Alec Brownstein, he knew exactly how to communicate with his desired employer. He used Google Adwords to purchase advertising spots of the names of his favorite Creative Directors knowing they would Google themselves at some point. Using that space he advertised himself and stated why he would be perfect for the job. Alec was hired by his dream employer.

6. Responsibility and Reliability – Anyone can say they are responsible and reliable, but it is a quality that is best demonstrated. In other words, you prove your responsibility just by doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That means showing up when you said you would, responding when you said you would, and delivering results in a timely fashion. In my years as a career coach, I have found people can easily disprove these qualities just by failing to return a call, or being late for a meeting.

7. Detail-Oriented – Being detailed-oriented ties into being responsible and is another quality that can also be disproven. Do you hear and understand what’s being asked of you? Do you actually take the time to consider the finer points? For example, I’ve read many résumés where people have claimed they were detail-oriented. However, they failed to pay attention to the smaller things such as format, spelling and grammar.

8. Creativity – Being creative means doing things in your job search that others wouldn’t, such as being bold. This could take the form of a billboard ad targeted at a potential employer, or creating an infographic résumé. Creativity also means thinking outside-of-the-box and naturally demonstrating your problem-solving abilities.

Nina Mufleh is a great creative example. She moved from the Middle East to San Francisco and wanted to land a job at Airbnb. Her efforts were ignored by the company. That is until she created a website for an interactive résumé that looked like an Airbnb host profile. It wasn’t long before she was contacted by Airbnb, LinkedIn, and Uber. Nina was able to uniquely showcase her knowledge of the industry and what she could contribute to Airbnb.

 

How-you-do-anything-is

 

Naming these highly desired qualities on your résumé means very little to employers unless you set yourself apart with your actions. The connection between the three extraordinary job seekers is their ability to demonstrate their best qualities while executing their job search. While you may not need to stalk hiring managers at your desired employer, or target them with Google Adwords, you can consider your best qualities and how you can demonstrate them to a potential employer. If you’re a creative type, be bold and creative. If you’re a details-oriented person, pay close attention to the details. How you execute your job search says more than your résumé ever will.